Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a heart condition in which there is an abnormal extra electrical pathway from the atria to the ventricles of the heart. This syndrome causes tachycardia, i.e. rapid heart rate.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is one of the most common causes of fast heart rate disorders in infants and children.
This syndrome causes a specific pattern on an ECG and is linked to an episode of rapid heart rates, such as supraventricular tachycardia or atrial fibrillation. When someone with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome has supraventricular tachycardia, their heart rate may reach 230 beats per minute. A normal heart rate in adults is 60-100 beats/minute, while in babies and children it is up to 150 beats/minute.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome can be treated, which implies that the fast heartbeats can be stopped or prevented. Most people do not experience any symptoms; they may find out about this syndrome during a regular check-up of the heart.
Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is also referred to as pre-excitation syndrome because the ventricles are activated too early.
The symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome are:
- difficulty breathing
- loss of consciousness
The symptoms may last for a few seconds to several hours. They usually occur during exercise or as a result of caffeine or alcohol.
In serioius cases, the symptoms may include: chest pain, poor eating, or visible heartbeat (on the chest).
The cause of the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is the extra electrical pathway that stirs the heartbeat. It is not known why this happens. It can be a congenital heart defect.
The heart has internal electrical “wiring”, essential for proper pumping of blood. In some people, an extra “wire” is present. This additional connection can cause short-circuit, causing very rapid heartbeat.
The complications of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome are:
- atrial fibrillation
- ventricular fibrillation, which can cause sudden death